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Freedom Heart Ukraine

15 honoured with Hetman Awards

Jan 1, 1970 | Community, Featured

NP-UN Western Bureau.

Fifteen individuals (two posthumously) were honoured with Hetman Awards as the ceremony held at St. Basil’s Cultural centre in Edmonton December 4.

The Hetman Volunteer Awards were established by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council in 1998 to recognize outstanding Albertan volunteer leaders who have made significant contributions to the life of the Ukrainian Canadian community. These awards are presented annually in the following categories: Hetman youth and adult leadership, professional achievement and for exemplary volunteerism.

The awards were as follows:

Hetman Adult Leadership

Dr. Amil Shapka has devoted a great deal of his time and energy to maintain the Ukrainian Canadian community in St. Paul, and to educating the general public on Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920. Amil has been on the board of the All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Cultural Centre almost continuously for 30 years, and was instrumental in giving new life to the Willingdon Orthodox Church by having it moved to St. Paul. Since his retirement in 2019, Amil has taken more of a leadership role within the local Ukrainian community, joining the St. Paul and District Ukrainian Cultural Society, successfully placing a statue and interpretive panel to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the end of Canada’s WWI internment operations, and most recently, completing a permanent exhibit in the local museum, honouring the early Ukrainian immigrants to the area.

William B. Shostak (Bill) is a long-time member of Ukrainian Canadian Social Services (Edmonton). He has devoted a lot of energy, time and expertise to the operation of the agency. He served as a Board member, vice-president, and ten years as president. During his service, he focused on board development, succession of duties and financial sustainability. William initiated the COVID Community Relief Fund in order to provide aid during the pandemic. He has dedicated countless hours to volunteering and attracted many new volunteers. For 10 years, he was the UCSS representative to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council. William has been involved with many other community organizations. He is a long-time parishioner at Dormition Ukrainian Catholic Church, where he served 12 years on Parish Council and 4 years as president. He served five years on the Advisory Council on Alberta Ukraine Relations.

Chrystia Moussienko joined Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM) at the age of five and she has been an active member of the community since. Growing up in an active Ukrainian Canadian family, with CYM and church being an integral part of her upbringing, Chrystia became an active member in the wider Ukrainian community and contributed to growth and thriving of many organizations in her beloved City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta. She served as a director (in various capacities) on the Calgary Ukrainian Radio Program, Calgary Ukrainian Credit Union, UCC Calgary, UCC-APC, Echoes of Ukraine Media, CYM Calgary, Barvinok Ukrainian Dancers, and is currently serving her second term as Chairperson of one of Alberta’s largest and most active Ukrainian parishes, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church (ABVM).

Chris Gnyra is Chair of the Calgary Ukrainian Festival Foundation (CUFF) since 2010. As a founding member of the Calgary Ukrainian Festival, Chris was instrumental in the development and inauguration of the festival. He envisioned a festival that included a celebration of Ukrainian culture, dance, food, and community — that welcomed Ukrainians and all residents of Calgary. Chris has personally been involved in every detail of the Calgary Ukrainian Festival since its beginnings. In June of 2021, the Calgary Ukrainian Festival celebrated its 12th year in the midst of the pandemic. As the festival has continued to pivot — a part of this legacy building, Chris supported the board’s vision to continue the festival with both an online festival and a Perogy Drive-Thru.

Marian Gauk has dedicated many years to ensuring the ongoing success and growth of the Ukrainian Bilingual Program. Some of her successes are: high student enrolment, thanks to the partnership between Edmonton Catholic School (ECS) District and Ukrainian Bilingual Parent Advisory Society; student achievement and recognition program, value-added funding for each bilingual school to support Ukrainian cultural, educational and community activities for the students, and more. In the years she has been involved with ECS Ukrainian Bilingual Parent Advisory Society, she led the change for the School District to provide public transportation services to students in the Ukrainian Bilingual Program, developed a solid and ongoing partnership with Edmonton Catholic Schools Marketing and Communications Department to implement a marketing plan for advertising and promotion of the Ukrainian Bilingual program, and more. Over the last decade of her presidency, UBPAS built a strong connection between the four bilingual schools through training and support of the school representatives.

Mary Krys began her role as the director of the Verkhovyna School of Dance in 2008. When she took on this role, the average number of students was around 70 per season. Over the course of 12 years, enrolment in the dance school doubled from 70 to 140 students. The reputation and recognition of the school has greatly flourished under Mary’s leadership. Relationships with the dance school and other organizations in the Ukrainian community have also improved, and the school’s costume inventory has been updated and has grown greatly. While initially performing exclusively in Edmonton-based competitions each year, Mary vastly broadened the dance school’s horizons. They now take part in multiple out-of-province Ukrainian dance competitions each year, as well as travel to perform for special events such as the Banff Canada Day parade and Disney’s Performing Arts Program in California and Florida.

Hetman Professional Achievement

Debbie Kachmar-Potter has taught across the province and provides each of her students an excellent opportunity to learn about dance, Ukrainian heritage and culture. Many of her storylines encompass aspects of Ukrainian traditions — to create these works of art, she has dedicated countless hours creating costumes, props, storylines and scenes. At Holy Eucharist Parish, she leads the children in the Christmas play. For many years now, she’s been volunteering at the New Kyiv Children’s Summer Camp where she involves the attendees in the program, based on the camp’s theme for that year. Debbie has also been the Assistant Artistic Director for the Vohon Ukrainian Dance Ensemble for 14 years. In the last 5 years, she has been teaching the Ukrainian Dance Academy at St. Martin and St. Matthew Edmonton Catholic Schools.

George Chrunik became a member of Shumka in 1975, and even after his retirement from active dancing in the early 1990s, he has continued to be an important part of the organization in many capacities. For 40 years, George was an instructor, workshop facilitator, choreographer, artistic director, and adjudicator, inspiring students with his love of Ukrainian dance. His passion for the promotion and presentation of Ukrainian culture through dance was evident in all he did. He lent his skills to many committees which included the standards committee, the 1984 twenty-fifth anniversary cross-Canada tour committee, additional cross-Canada tours in 1987 and 1991, and the tour in Ukraine in 1990. George is now retired from dancing and teaching, but is involved with Shumka through committees and adjudicates, when invited.

In the past 30 years that Mykola Kanevets has worked with the Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company, he has remained true to an aesthetic of Ukrainian dance that was popularized in Ukraine in the last century. Over the years, Mykola has expanded the repertoire of the Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company and curated over 700 performances for the company. His choreography for Cheremosh was incorporated as a teaching tool in the choreography department of the Kyiv National University of Culture and Arts. Together with Cheremosh, he has showcased his dance art works in China, Bulgaria, Ukraine, USA, Scotland, Australia and across Canada.

Ken Kachmar began Ukrainian dancing at a young age with the Two Hills Ukrainian Dancers. From that early age, it was evident that he had aspirations to create innovative and creative dance moves. Joining the Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Ensemble gave him the opportunity to showcase his creativity, but it didn’t stop there. It was not long before Ken began establishing his own dance groups. In 1988, he formed the Vohon Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, created the Flying Kozaks, established the Edmonton School of Ukrainian Dance and the Vatra Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, and co-choreographed Festival ’88 with his cousin, George Chrunik — an event where over 2,000 participants performed the world’s largest Hopak at the Edmonton Coliseum. Ken’s ambition has always been to teach students about their Ukrainian heritage through dance. Vohon’s Malanka in Jasper, which became a yearly tradition for many people from the Ukrainian community, is a perfect example of this. Ken’s newest venture is Boen Performing Arts, which produces Ukrainian shows across Canada and abroad for talented artists from Ukraine.

Radomir Bilash has dedicated his career to preserving and promoting Ukrainian culture and history. His visionary spirit and strategic planning have led to the Joint Conferences between Ukraine and Canada titled “Migrations”, fostering cooperative relations with the Ukrainian embassy in Canada, and coordinating a genealogical agreement between Alberta & Lviv. He subsequently initiated and managed the Alberta-Ukraine Genealogical Project, engaging several community-based partners. He co-edited “Migrations from Western Ukraine to Western Canada: Proceedings of the Joint Conferences”, edited 11 volumes of the Historic Sites Service Occasional Paper Series, and oversaw over 100 studies relating to early Ukrainian-Canadian History at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village (UCHV). Partnering with three University Departments in Western Canada, Radomir co-managed “Local Culture & Diversity Across the Prairies”, the largest single research project of the Kule Folklore Centre at the University of Alberta.

Ihor Bohdan is an inspiring cultural ambassador for our community with a remarkable 45 years on the professional stage. He serves as the Director with the Executive Committee of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Calgary Branch, an active member with CYM Calgary and with the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church Parish. Since 1992, Ihor contributed to many successful community events and concerts as a co-organizer, master of ceremonies and a gifted performer. He has organized many author’s concerts and concerts in cooperation with other artists, including our youth, with proceeds going to support Ukrainian orphans, war veterans, wounded soldiers and families most affected by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Ihor performed at many Ukrainian festivals in Alberta, Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. Ihor performed on the main stage of the Maidan during the Orange Revolution and with a solo Christmas concert during the Revolution of Dignity.

Exemplary Volunteer

From a young age, Anne Stephen dedicated her life to Ukrainian culture and expressed the passion of her Ukrainian roots. She participated in the Ukrainian National Youth Federation (UNYF) dance group and choir under Mr. Groch in the late 1940s, and from 1951-1953, she led the UNYF children’s dance group “Dorost” MUN. As the president of UNYF, she organized different performances at many Ukrainian events in the 1950s and served in various committees. When she moved back to Edmonton in 1978, she joined the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada (UWO) Edmonton Branch, where she continued to volunteer and give back to the community. For many years, she served on the auditing committee within the UWO organization. She played a crucial part in facilitating and organizing: Heritage Festival – Art Pavilion, successful Easter exhibits and sales, traditional Malankas and celebrations of Dzherelo plays. She has also been a part of the Organizing Committee for the 70th, 75th, and 80th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada.


Elias John Cholach has been an exceptional example to his local community exemplifying hard work, pure character, respect for the Ukrainian heritage and contributing to happy and healthy community spaces. Having been a consistent member of Prosvita Community Hall Association and the Prosperity Ukrainian Catholic Church and associated graveyard, since 1964, he continued to give his efforts, labour and guidance up until his passing in February 2021. An active member with a strong work ethic, he continued to give his time and generous spirit right up to his passing. Dedicated to preserving his small rural church and instrumental in also preserving a 64-year-old, hand painted picture of a Village from the Old Country in Prosvita Hall — originally painted on sugar sacks in 1951— Elias stopped at nothing to give freely his energy towards conservation of the past, including religious traditions such as graveside blessings, church services as often as could be held with the reality of dwindling congregates, and supporting The Priest and Parishioners during services.
At the time of his passing, he was President of the church and had been a caretaker of the graveyard for at least the past 15 years.

Dr. Bohdan Medwidsky held teaching positions at the University of Toronto and Carleton University before arriving at the University of Alberta. In 1971, he assumed the post of Assistant Professor with the Department of Slavic and East European Studies, and received the rank of a full professor in 1991. Dr. Medwidsky was the founder of the Ukrainian Folklore Program at the University of Alberta. Through his personal initiative, he raised the funds and convinced University Administration that the study of Ukrainian culture should be a part of the University’s offering. As a result, dozens of B.A., M.A, and Ph.D. degrees specializing in Ukrainian Folklore have been granted. The Ukrainian Folklore Archives were founded in 1977 when Dr. Medwidsky assembled students’ fieldwork projects from his first course on Ukrainian folklore. The Archives has now grown to include tens of thousands of documents and recordings of Ukrainian and Canadian life. Dr. Medwidsky was the driving force in developing the Kule Folklore Centre and has been one of the most successful fundraisers in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts. He was the key organizer of the Ukrainian Folklore endowments at the University of Alberta. Dr. Medwidsky passed away in March 2021, but his legacy and commitment to the study and preservation of Ukrainian culture in Alberta will live on in every initiative he has ever spearheaded or was involved in. In 2002, the Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Folklore Archives was renamed in his honour.
Orysia Boychuk, UCC-APC President welcomed attendees. Greetings were delivered by Fort Saskatchewan – Vegreville MLA Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk on behalf of the Provincial Government, Ward Karhiio Councillor Keren Tang for the City of Edmonton, Consul General of Ukraine in Edmonton Oleksandr Danyleiko for the Government of Ukraine and UCC-National, Vice President Olesia Luciw-Andryjowycz.

Danylo Moussienko served as Master of Ceremonies.

Performers at the banquet included the Cheremosh Dance Ensemble, the Dunai Ukrainian Dancers, the Vohon Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, singer Ihor Bohdan and tsymbalist Susanna Lynn.

The Hetman Banquet Committee consisted of Karen Graves, Lydia Migus, Liliya Sokha, Marian Gauk and Orysia Boychuk.

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